March: If It s Sunday, It s Braciole!
The Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole Series – Part 1
When I was growing up in our little house in Binghamton, NY, Braciole was a big deal. It wasn’t part of those random Tuesday night dinners with sauce. It was reserved for special family gatherings, usually on Sundays. If you’re Italian, you know what I mean – the kind that lasted for 3 hours. Even as a child, I knew If It s Sunday, It s Braciole! My mother, Loretta, would make it a day ahead. She used lard in it, as so many really good cooks did in those days. Ah, everything tasted better then.
Because Braciole is so memorable to Italians and in Italian cooking, I decided that it warranted a series of posts- specifically three and not just one. Thus, The Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole Series seemed inevitable! Is it THAT good? Yes, it is—and it’s also about that memory thing again. It is a part of the fond memories of most Italians who can recite who in their upbringing made the very best. In my case, it would definitely be my mother.
Ok – so you’re not Italian, and don’t have the inside skinny on what we’re talking about here. Braciole is a classic Italian meat dish – pronounced “bra-shol-e” – accent on the second syllable. It is probably found in every region in Italy in some form and using all different types of meat. In some regions, it is called “involtini”. The traditional Neapolitan preparation uses rolled beef – usually top round or flank steak. It is pounded thin, stuffed, rolled, tied with string, browned in olive oil, and then left to simmer in a beautiful sea of tomato sauce until done. That is the style we will use to begin our series. When the Braciole is ready to be served, each roll is removed from the sauce. The strings are clipped and discarded, and the rolls are cut into beautiful slices revealing the stuffing within.
The Braciole is often served with pasta. The pasta is served first, with the sliced meat usually following. One of my favorite ways to eat the Braciole in sauce is with polenta. The sauce is always quite flavorful and makes the polenta a beautiful receptacle for its red goodness – not to mention a lovely choice to have with the meat. That is the way you will see it in the series, but you can just as easily serve it with your favorite pasta.
Later in the series, we will take a turn with the Braciole and prepare it in a completely different way using pork tenderloin. This will be a complete departure from the slowly cooked Braciole in sauce. Stay tuned!
Loretta most often made one or two large rolls. In this series, we’ll make some smaller ones – so each person has his own “personal Braciole”. If you’d like to make the larger ones, you can, using the same instructions. Just use larger pieces of meat. The first recipe for Braciole is one my mother made often: Braciole Napoletana . A recipe for a simple tomato sauce for the grand simmer is included.
This is how it’s done:
(first recipe in the Braciole Series)
Makes: about 6 smaller individual ones or 1 or 2 large ones
1 1/2 lb beef top round or flank steak – if meat is thick butterfly it or ask your butcher to do this. You’ll want thin slices of meat for rolling.
1/2 c. Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
1/2 c. Dry Breadcrumbs
1/2 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grated Aged Provolone Cheese
2 tbsp. Garlic chopped finely
1/2 c. Pignolis – toast them a little
Salt and Pepper to taste
Toothpicks or string (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls
3-4 Tbsp. Olive oil for browning
Tomato Sauce ( see recipe for this to follow)
You’ll need a mallet or something heavy to pound the meat. This type of mallet comes with a side with sharp points for tenderizing.
Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin and beat with tenderizer side to further tenderize the meat.
If making smaller ones cut the meat into 5-6” slices.
Rub each slice with olive oil. Follow with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis and salt and pepper to taste.
Roll each slice vertically and secure with toothpicks or string.
You can use 2 or 3 strings to secure the smaller ones. If making large ones, use more string or toothpicks.
Brown the rolls in olive oil. When finished – remove them and make the sauce in the same pan.
Cook: 2 1/2 hours for Braciole
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 Cloves Garlic chopped
1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes – give them a quick turn or 2 in the blender first
1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste (dilute the paste in 1/2 c. water – stir well until dissolved into the water)
2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped
1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano leaves – chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind
Add Olive oil to the pan. Add garlic and cook a minute or two. Do not burn the garlic.
If using the sauce for Braciole, add the browned rolls back to the pan now.
With your heat turned up to medium high, add the red wine and scraped up the bits from the bottom of the pan.
Turn the rolls to coat in the wine as it cooks down for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, followed by the paste in water, herbs, and rind.
Cover the pan or pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours . Stir gently occasionally to turn the rolls.
Uncover the pot for the last hour of cooking to thicken.
Remove rolls before serving and remove and discard toothpicks and strings. Slice the rolls thickly.
Serve with plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Braciole Napoletana is lovely served with pasta or polenta and your favorite vino rosso. For polenta see the post: Polenta – It’s So Corny
Be sure to look for the next post in this series!
Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography